….How to step into/out of conversations and how to handle questions you don’t want to answer like, “What have you been up to?

Whether you’re back to working at the office or run into people who you haven’t seen in a while, you may be greeted with questions that you might not want to answer! A question as simple as “What have you been up to?” may feel uncomfortable or bring up a lot. That is okay as each of us had such unique and different experiences throughout this time. We can elevate some of the stress and anxiety by mentally preparing ways on how to step into and out of conversations.

Here are some examples of answering some questions that might come up as we are reconnecting:

“What have you been up to?”

“Oh, you know…just taking it day by day.”

“What are your thoughts on the vaccines?”

“I’m all COVIDED out for the day, can we please talk about something else”

“You look different, what’s changed”?

“Well, I think talking about what hasn’t changed during this time would be easier!”


Most people especially now are feeling nervous about re-socializing…so you’re not alone. In fact, most people struggle with feeling awkward or a sense of uneasiness when connecting with each other. Remember… that having a conversation is a social skill. Just like we learn different skills such as reading or driving a car, being able to have meaningful conversations takes time to pick up. Though, as humans, we have the advantage of having years of evolution behind us that has strengthened our abilities to communicate. The more you practice a skill the better you are with time and patience.

During this time of uncertainty there was a lot of ambiguity around a sense of control. Communicating our thoughts and feelings is something we have control over, and it is a very powerful tool! We can choose how much we want to disclose vs. how much we don’t. We can choose what types of conversations we want to be a part of vs. the ones we don’t want too.

It can be helpful to learn how to accept each other’s truth. There might be times where we may struggle with different viewpoints especially in the climate of our world today. Something to keep in mind is everyone’s perception of reality is different based on their personal experiences. Some days we may feel frustrated and or confused when someone’s viewpoint doesn’t align with ours. If you find yourself feeling upset or uncomfortable it may be helpful to verbalize it by identifying how it’s making you feel- “I am not feeling comfortable with that and it’s making me upset that you don’t respect my stance on this.”  This way you are focusing on your emotions rather than the topic.

According to Celeste Headlee, an award-winning journalist, professional speaker, and best-selling author of We Need to Talk, – there are many different strategies that can help us cultivate meaningful conversations. Whether you’re struggling to communicate with your child’s teacher, your boss, your neighbor, or someone you love, Headlee offers smart strategies that can help us have conversations that matter. Some of her strategies to consider as we are reconnecting include:

Use open-ended questions…

Start your questions with who, what, when, where, why or how. Try asking questions like “What was that like?”, “How did that feel?” This is a great tool to use when you’re feeling stuck in conversations and allows you to keep the conversation flowing.

Go with the flow…

That means thoughts will come into your mind and you need to let them go out of your mind. This allows us to express our authentic selves.

If you don’t know, say you don’t know…

We’re all human and cannot possibly know everything. Sometimes when you’re honest about what you know vs. what you don’t, you’re met with opportunities to learn.


with the intent to understand. By doing this we are denying room for miscommunications and allowing space for meaningful conversations.

To learn more ways on how to have more meaningful conversations, check out Headlee’s Ted talk: Watch Here

Another tool you can utilize during conversations is humor!

For example, someone asking “What have you been up to?” answering with a joke like “Oh About 5’2.”  It keeps the conversation lighthearted and allows you to choose the direction you’d like to take within the conversation. Humor is both a source of entertainment and means of coping with difficult or awkward situations and stressful events. Humor is known to aid in forming social bonds and releasing tension. Plus who doesn’t enjoy a good laugh?

How to step out of conversations…

Exiting out of conversations can be difficult at times.  You may be wondering things like: How do you end a conversation? Who has the right to end it?

Here are some ways to step out feeling good about your exit!  (Because your last impression is just as important as your first impression!):

Check your watch

This action shows that you need to head out due to the time.

Rephrase the last thing they said and let them know you have to wrap up

“Your trip sounds so fun, wish we could talk more, but I need to run.”

Include a time constraint

“I have to get going in about 15 minutes to make it to XYZ on time.

Excuse yourself

“Please excuse me…I have XYZ to work on.”

Leave them to what they were doing

“Nice chatting with you! I’ll leave you to do your work now.”

For more ways to end a conversation, check out:

62 Ways to Politely End a Conversation In ANY Situation

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